Photo credit: Nigel Kinrade Photography

Why short tracks are path to the playoffs for Joey Logano

Joey Logano has yet to reach victory lane this season, but there is a belief on the No. 22 team that "they have as good of a shot as anybody" this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The reason for the confidence is due to multiple factors. The first is Logano's consistency overall at New Hampshire, especially since joining forces with crew chief Paul Wolfe in 2020.

He has finished fourth or better in three of the four races at New Hampshire since the crew chief change. Logano led 25 laps in the 2022 race at the 1.058-mile track but finished 24th.

The other reason is the recent success on shorter tracks across all of Team Penske. All three drivers have won in the past five weeks.

Logano won the All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway after taking part in an extensive Goodyear tire test. Austin Cindric won at World Wide Technology Raceway to lock up a spot in the playoffs. Ryan Blaney won last weekend's inaugural Cup race at Iowa Speedway to punch his ticket to the playoffs.

"Phoenix was early in the season and I wouldn't say we were great there, but, honestly, I have to keep going back to the test opportunity we had at North Wilkesboro early in the spring and really capitalizing and making the most of that," Wolfe told media members Wednesday.

"Obviously, Joey gets a lot of credit for that. We put in, I think almost 900 laps at North Wilkesboro. It was a Goodyear test, but we were able to work through a lot of questions we had and things we wanted to look at and gathered a lot of information that we've been able to apply to these recent short tracks."

Logano hasn't won a points-paying race just yet -- the All-Star Race was just for money -- but he has been in contention. He finished fifth at WWT Raceway and then sixth at Iowa after scoring a combined 12 stage points.

These performances helped him move closer to the playoff cutline. He is now only six points behind Bubba Wallace, who holds the final playoff spot.

New Hampshire's Cup race presents an opportunity for Logano, Wolfe, and the No. 22 team. They can deliver another consistent performance at the track while showcasing gained knowledge about NASCAR's short-track package. A strong day will lead to more points and a potential move above the cutline. A win will automatically put the team into the playoffs.

"I think as we started this stretch here -- I guess you look back a month ago after we won the All-Star Race at Wilkesboro -- having a lot of confidence in where we're at with this aero package as well as short track setup stuff" Wolfe said.

"When Joey and I sat down I said, 'This is our stretch. This is probably gonna be some of our best opportunities to get a win and get ourselves locked in.'"